From the Editors
A now almost balmy thirteen years ago, when the “West” was still trailing the wake of unabashed optimism and self-confidence that had sprung out of the end of the Cold War, yet was jostled by the first dark swells of discord (September 11th and a nascent discontent with globalization), Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida penned a nuanced call for Europe to forge its own identity specifically through an otherization of the United States.
It was precisely because the “spiritual West” shared so much, they argued, that Europe needed to define itself in order to come into its own. Indeed, for 70 years, Europe and North America have preached a more or less common creed of political values and adhered to a shared vision of how the world should be organized. Self-restraint, rule of law, international institutions, free trade and relatively open immigration.
Culturally, the two sides of the Atlantic are closer than ever. What began with an infusion of the musical ‘souls of black folk’ from the Americas to Parisian cafés in the 1920’s accelerated into the pervasive presence of sound surging back and forth across the waves; British rockers who took the United States by storm in the 1960’s, the thumping hip-hop that was sent back in return, only to incorporate the electronic dance beats of European DJs a decade and a half later.
And of course, the eclectic mishmash aesthetic of international hipsterdom—grungy chairs and artfully decaying interiors amidst which uniquely similar patrons consume twelve euro green smoothies, Hawaiian poké bowls, house muesli, avocado toast...obviously, single origin coffees and local craft beer—is a sign of a certain type of “globalization achieved.” A grand smushing together of everything.
How then, could Habermas and Derrida have known that a mere ten years after their co-authored essay Donald J. Trump, a real life embodiment of the excesses of American culture, would descend an escalator in a gold-gilded atrium and do their work for them?
Trump, Trump, Trump. The name alone invokes a surrealist sense of the absurd, the sheer unease of knowing beyond reason that the world has become a comic book caricature of itself. With every tweet, each threat to pull out of NATO, each pugilistic encounter with Angela Merkel, each outburst about re-imposing tariffs, is he creating and widening cracks that will be difficult—extremely difficult—to repair?
Our new issue on transatlanticism explores this simultaneous closeness and creeping division. But focusing only on the sound and fury of Trumpism wouldn’t do justice to the longstanding transatlantic political community, which is far more than just an alliance. To illustrate that, this issue of AWE Magazine dives into the social, historical and cultural forces that have shaped its past, present and future — from the quick crumbling of Hollywood’s monopoly on cultural output as the result of an increasingly Europeanized Netflix, to a historical comparison of the approach towards freedom of speech on both continents, to an analysis of the bi-coastal intermingling of hip-hop culture, these feature articles, reflections, and essays shed light on the ways that Europe and the United States remain incredibly entwined—even if those threads are beginning to fray.
Alexander Hurst & Kyrill Hartog